Overcoming Ask Avoidance

Sheila Murphy
July 16, 2024

We have all heard the adage, "You don't get what you don't ask for." And that is true, but to get what you ask for, many of us first need to overcome ask avoidance. Because if you don't overcome ask avoidance, you will end up with a stalled career.

What is ask avoidance?

Ask avoidance is when you don't make the requests that you need to advance your career, or rush through the ask because it feels too self-promotional and icky.

You suffer from ask avoidance if:

  • You struggle to request things that would further your career.
  • You avoid making asks for fear of being rejected.
  • You tell yourself that requesting something would not make a difference.
  • You don't ask because an inner voice tells you a story why the person will turn you down.
  • You don't request what you need because you need to fine-tune your ask more.
  • You repeatedly have your asks turned down.
  • You feel uncomfortable and ineffective when making an ask.
  • You don't confidently rebound from a "no" and move to the next opportunity.

Once you recognize that you have ask avoidance, the excellent news is it is curable. If you can identify when ask avoidance is creeping up, you can squash it and make an effective ask. By understanding how to make an effective ask, you can overcome ask avoidance.

Making an effective ask

There are four steps to make an effective ask. By spending the time going through this process, you transform into a solution for the other individual.

If time is short, abbreviate the process—but go through it all.

Remember, when we focus on the other person and be solutions-oriented, we are much more likely to succeed.

Step 1: Investigate

In the first step investigation, you want to:

  • Generate ideas and targets.
  • Research.
  • Initiate a conversation.

In the generation phase, develop a list of people who may help you reach your goal. For example, who can get you on the list for a promotion or on a critical strategic initiative, or what types of experiences have helped others move ahead?

You then want to research everything you can about the decision-makers, their influencers, the programs or promotion guidelines (official and unofficial) if applicable, and the types of qualities that others who have succeeded have.

When you have done all of the above, then and only then have you earned the right to initiate a conversation. So make sure that you schedule a time and place that is conducive to the discussion. By the way, remember it may take multiple conversations to get what you need.

Step 2: Interview

During the interview phase, you gather information (not making an ask) to understand the other person's objectives and pain points. Information you may be seeking includes:

  • What do they look for in people they support in promotion?
  • What are the unofficial criteria to lead a strategic project?
  • What type of people won't they support?
  • What are the problems they are trying to solve with a development program?

During the interview process, you are seeking the information you need to position yourself as the answer to their needs.

Many people want to skip this step claiming that they know the answers. Please don't. My clients almost always learn something new that helps them hone their approach.

Step 3: Value Statement

The next step is to develop your value statement. That is how you are the solution to their problems, and you can help them meet their objectives.

In developing your value statement, you want to:

  • Highlight how you are the solution.
  • Incorporate your brand.
  • Remember it is value to them, not value to you, that guides the conversation.
  • Describe in detail what will help them achieve the goal.

In formulating your value statement, make sure that you provide proof that you are their solution. For example, tell them how you have exhibited characteristics or skills they are looking for or how you have taken what you have learned in other training programs to benefit the organization.

Step 4: Make the Ask

You have done the work now to make an effective ask. There are three parts to the ask:

  • Pairing their needs and your value statements.
  • Handling questions/objections.
  • Soliciting feedback.

The magic happens when you match their needs with your value statement. You become the answer.

It would be best if you prepared to handle any questions or objectives. Having done the research ahead of time, you should know what to anticipate and be able to respond effectively.

Not all asks are successful, and they may not be for reasons outside of your control.

So, whether you get a yes or no, you need to ask: Why?

The answer to that question will give you the information you need to hone your future asks or perhaps reveal that getting promoted will be an upward climb. Having that information endows you with the power to design your future—make sure you claim that information.

By understanding the other person's needs, you will better position yourself to getting to yes and feel more comfortable asking because you are not trying to force yourself on someone—you are helping them fulfill their needs. Most importantly, making the ask and obtaining feedback gives you the information and courage you need to attain the career you desire.


Want to become a rainmaker and build a book of business?

Take a look at my guide which outlines the 9 Tips for Lawyers Struggling to Build a Book of Business.

In this guide, I share my time-tested tips to release fear, transform your relationship with business development, and launch your rainmaker journey.

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